In Summary
  • There is a lot of hypocrisy in our Parliament. I know a good number of MPs who have dual citizenships or hold US Green Cards.

  • Mwende is no wall decoration. She is a very well-wired policy and communications consultant  based in New York .
  • She has also professionally operated on behalf of the Kenya government on numerous occasions in advancing Kenya’s policy objectives in the US.

Why all the fuss about Ms Mwende Mwinzi being nominated Kenya’s ambassador to South Korea? Just because she is a dual citizen of Kenya and the US? The list of state officers contained in Article 260 of the Constitution (the President, CSs, KDF commanders, NIS director, Governors, MPs et cetera — who are barred by law from holding dual citizenship) does not mention ambassadors. If it was an oversight, a constitutional court should clarify.

BIRTHRIGHT

Let’s get a bit deeper into the legalese. Article 234 of this same Constitution actually makes a distinction between state offices and “an office of ambassador or other diplomatic or consular representative of the Republic”. Further, Article 78 makes exceptions on citizenship for judges and members of commissions and “any person who has been made a citizen of another country by operation of that country’s law, without ability to opt out”.

That sums up Mwende’s dilemma. She can’t just opt out. And why should she? She was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to a Kenyan father and an American mother. That gave her American birthright citizenship. American law is clear that anybody born on American soil, whether through an American parent or even by a foreigner who happens to be staying in the US, is entitled to automatic US citizenship. The same privilege is accorded to anybody born of an American parent anywhere in the world. (Mwende’s family did come back to Kenya where her dad and mom took up jobs and where she grew up and went to school).

Mwende’s situation is unusual because her American birthright mirrors her Kenyan birthright. Kenyan law equally states that if you were born through a Kenyan parent anywhere in the world, you are entitled to birthright citizenship. To stretch the argument further, former US President Barack Obama would be perfectly entitled, if he so wished, to claim Kenyan citizenship because his father was a Kenyan. Yes, he can.

It is unfair to demand that Mwende renounce her US citizenship, just as it would be unfair if the US were to demand that she renounces her Kenyan citizenship. What is there to renounce? A birth entitlement? The situation is not like if she acquired her US citizenship through marriage, or naturalisation, or through a Green Card. That way it is easier to opt out as a US citizen. But here is a situation where she was born a citizen. The law is surely an ass. Years ago she had applied for a Kenyan birth certificate while in the US, acquired a Kenyan passport, then travelled to Kenya where she got an ID card.

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